Monthly Recap: February 2017
I'm writing this recap instead of writing my Econ paper, which is going to be a poor choice because the paper is due in two days. But I've missed writing for my blog and I'm determined to catch up this month. To everyone who has reached out asking for blog updates, thank you! I'm grateful so many of my friends and family members are with me on this journey.
February was a whirlwind of a month. It was, admittedly, the month I finally came out of my shell (as my friends at Cool Bananas would say). I had kept my head down and focused on work and school the first few weeks I was in Agnes, which meant I wasn't meeting as many people. I've said before that I am an introvert, which is why I've come to love travel so much. It forces me out of my comfort zone and I have to actually talk to people to make friends (shocking revelation, I know). So, instead of writing blog posts and doing homework and picking up extra shifts at work, I started spending more time with friends who made everything about Australia so much more memorable. Agnes, without a doubt, will always have a special place in my heart.
Where I've Been
Agnes Water - 28 nights
Agnes Water, I love you. This one is pretty self-explanatory.
Best & Worst Beds
Another irrelevant section for this month. I continued to sleep in the same bed in the corner of room five. No complaints here.
Learning to drive, again - Brock let me use his car so I could try driving on the left side of the road! I thought I did pretty well driving to 1770, until Lewis told me I was practically driving on the grass. It was funny to drive because everything is on the opposite side, including the turn signals and clutch. So whenever I tried to turn the blinker on, I would turn the windshielder wiper on instead. Turning was also weird because they were wide turns, as opposed to tight turns in the US. But I managed!
Making pizzas - I was lucky enough to legitimately love my job in Agnes, mainly because I really enjoyed the people I worked with. We had a new chef who started only a week after I did, and he overhauled the main menu and the pizza menu. Our new pizza menu was so good that I was literally eating pizza every night (truth - I definitely gained weight in Agnes, but what's life without pizza?!). We had a good kitchen crew, and business had slowed down after the holidays so the work wasn't particularly hard. We were usually laughing, joking around, and listening to chef's explicit rap music, all while making plenty of pizzas.
Getting the whole gang together - Linda and Carey, the owners, went out of their way to host a staff get together one night. The table was covered with candy and chips and they kept bringing out bottles of wine and cases of beer. They said the sweetest words as a thank you to the staff and we spent the rest of the night drinking, sharing funny memories, listening to music, and taking plenty of photos (I kept bugging everyone for a group photo!). I loved having everyone together and it was definitely one of my favorite nights.
Having a girls night - On one of my last nights in Agnes, Laura, Isabella, and I pooled together our collection of chocolate, candies, cookies, and cheap wine to have a girl's night. We pulled the mattresses off the bunk beds to create a queen-sized bed, and borrowed one of the German boy's laptops so we could watch Sex and the City. It was just what I needed!
Finding Secret Beach - I wouldn't say Secret Beach was so much a "secret" as it was just a pain in the butt to find. The entrance to the trail was only minutes from Cool Bananas, but then we couldn't figure out how to get down to the actual beach. We found a beautiful viewpoint and then backtracked down several different trails before finding the beach, which is cut off from the main beach by looming cliffs. The way down wasn't easy, but being on such a secluded beach was worth it. The boys went snorkeling while I looked for seashells. We spent a few hours there before clamoring back up the cliffs to make it back on time to the hostel for dinner. Agnes has so many nifty, quiet spots like Secret Beach -- you just have to stay long enough to find them!
Swimming under the full moon - One of my favorite things about living in Agnes was that it reminded you to look up at night. With no street lights or skyscrapers to dim their brightness, the night sky was always full of stars. At the beginning of month, the full moon lit up all of Agnes. It was Brock's idea to pull out a chalkboard sign, write Full Moon Swim 10:00PM on it, and put it outside the kitchen. I think the whole hostel ended up walking to the beach that night. Someone brought a speaker, put some tunes on, and we sat on the beach for a good while. The cops came to check that nobody had any glass bottles and that there were no fires, but other than that, we weren't bothered. At some point, somebody led the charge into the water. We dived under wave after wave beneath the full moon at midnight for what felt like ages. I've never had a night like that anywhere else, and I'll probably think of it every time I see a full moon.
Getting a care package from home - My mom and sister sent me the best care package ever and it arrived at a time when I missing all the comforts of home. They sent my favorite, sugary candy from home (which I then had to force feed to the rest of the staff because I couldn't finish it all), peanut butter, hair ties, makeup wipes, face masks, and more. My niece "painted" a picture of a kangaroo, which I hung up next to my bed as a beautiful piece of artwork. My sister gets bonus points for printing huge photos of her and my mom on the inside of the box (my mom even has her glass of red wine in hand, classic!).
Saying too many goodbyes - Most of the staff I was with at Cool Bananas had been there for as long as me, so the goodbyes were inevitably harder. Lewis was the first to leave, and we missed him and his adorable, monotone accent every night he made the call for the Greyhound bus (we continued to imitate it every night, though). Brock left a week later to go to Airlie Beach and the hostel felt even emptier without his outgoing, I-can-make-friends-with-anyone personality. By the time I had to hug Carey and Linda goodbye at 6am, I was a blubbering, tearful mess in the shuttle bus. I always tell myself that the goodbyes are worth it, though, because it just means you've been lucky enough to meet people along your journey who have left an imprint on your heart.
Dealing with the past - To be totally honest, my last few days in Agnes were wasted on a guy I met seven years ago and had dated for three years. Surely, one of life's hardest lessons has to be finding out that someone you've known and trusted for ages wasn't actually the person you thought they were. The subsequent 12-hour bus ride and 10-hour flight to Manila left me with too much time to think, but by the time I landed, I was ready for some quality time with my Dad and a fresh start in a new city.
Making my blog more private, what? - When I relaunched my blog before I left, I did so with the intention of pushing it more into the public sphere. I was going to optimize its search analytics, find my niche, work on photo editing, write content every other day... Yeahhh, no. I have always known what I'm passionate about. Traveling is one of those passions. But social media, marketing, and blogging for a public audience is not. I also just didn't feeling like devoting the time it takes to market and brand a blog (it takes a lot of time and a lot of work). I don't like hashtagging my posts or optimizing Google search terms or analyzing page counts. I certainly want my blog to inspire as many people as possible to travel, but if that sphere is only my family and friends - and whoever else stumbles upon this little gem - I'm totally okay with that.
Nada. Zip. Zilch. Here's to hoping February is a bit better when it comes to writing.
But! Since I've got no blog posts to look back on for last month, how about what I'm working on now? I'm currently drafting posts on Lessons I Learned in Agnes Water (including a bunch of Australian slang!), How to Travel for (Almost) Free, and a full report of my Manila experiences. Plus, there's still plenty of blog posts to read here!
Yay, here's a section I can provide an update for because I'm OCD about my finances! Again, all costs are in US dollars.
Food: $216 (including way too many iced lattes, whoops)
Internet / Data: $56
Total spent: $332
Total earned: $2,811
By far, the biggest cost saver was working for accommodation at Cool Bananas for two months. By spending so much time in one place, particularly in a very small town which required very little spending, I was able to save a lot of money. The typical cost for traveling Australia $60-70USD/day. For four months in Australia, I've kept my daily costs to only $36USD/day. I earned about $4,000USD making pizzas for two months, which will keep me on the road for the rest of my trip!
Books I've Read
Another useless section because I was only 200 pages away from finishing A Storm of Swords when I was forced to return it to the local library so someone else could check it out. I'm still bitter about it.
What's Up Next
I am in Manila with my Dad, his brother, and sisters until March 12. Then I am going to explore the islands on my own for 8-10 days. I plan to go to Coron to dive shipwrecks from WWII and then to Malapascua, which is a very small island north of Cebu. Malapascua is the only place in the world you can dive with thresher sharks (they are not baited). Afterwards I'll head back to Manila and fly to Singapore for a few days (hi, Tessa!), then continue onto Malaysia. I am dying to be done with my grad school classes, which won't end until May 4, so I am still relying on a steady wifi connection wherever I go up until then.
I am still set on spending time in Melbourne, so I'm not done with Aus yet. I'll fly back to Melbourne after Malaysia to spend a few weeks there before leaving for New Zealand. I'm so excited for all the traveling ahead!
But for now, I guess I'll write my Econ paper... Maybe.